Lot: 81

Sale 100

Rare emblem "nyuzya" of the "bukasandji" society

D. R. Congo, Luba

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
presumably Leo Frobenius (1873-1938), Berlin, Germany
Julius Konietzko (1886-1952), Hamburg, Germany
Lore Kegel, Hamburg (1901-1980), Germany
Boris Kegel-Konietzko (1925-2020), Hamburg, Germany
Thomas Morbe, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Private Collection, Munich, Germany
H: 12.6 inch 8000 EUR
plus 27 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance


Emblems "nyuzya" belong to the insignia of the secret "bukasandji" (also "kasandji" or "kazanzi") society. They were used at funerals for "bukansandji" members. Initiates who were completely rubbed with kaolin are said to have held an axe in one hand and an emblem "nyuzya" in the other (Volper, 2012, p. 78, according to Colle, 1913, p. 538).

The iconography of "nyuzya" seems to refer to the ground hornbill, a large foraging bird that is considered to be the gatekeeper to the otherworld and thus closely associated with the world of the dead, which is also at the center of the "bukasandji’s" activities.

Human skeletal remains often played a role in society initiation rituals. Pieces of skulls, for example, were considered by the "bukasandji" to be the most powerful charm.

One of the "bukasandji’s" actual purposes was to confront and eliminate sorcery as the source of misfortune and death for the protection of the community. The "bukasandji" sold charms and offered protection to people suffering premonitions of misfortune, or feeling threatened by a third party or the spirit of someone dead.

Julien Volper dedicated his publication "Autour des Songe" to the "bukasandji" society and its art. The few known examples of "nyuza" emblems, thirteen of which are published in the AHDRC, are mainly in renowned museums, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, the Linden-Museum / Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart or well-known collections, e.g. The Menil Collection, Houston.

The members of the "bukasandji"- society were subjected to harsh persecution during the Belgian colonial regime because of alleged "necrophagic rituals", both by the colonial administration and the missionaries.

The accusation of necrophagy arose from a very unusual ritual of the "bukasandji". If the spirit of a dead person could be identified as the cause of misfortune and death, the covenant members gathered in large numbers at the grave of the guilty person. They exhumed the body and consumed larger or smaller amounts of the corpse depending on its state of decomposition. If the flesh was too rancid, it was eaten in very small portions accompanied by bananas or the meat of a wild warthog-like pig.

In reality, bits of the body may have been consumed with the intention to absorb some of its life-force, but more were recuperated to serve for the making of protective charms. To fully destroy the vengeful spirit of the deceased, the remaining parts of the body were burnt and the ashes thrown into a river.

Volper, Julien, Autour de Songye, Montreuil 2012, p. 68-84 Colle, Rév. P., 1913a, "Les Baluba", Collection de monographies ethnographiques, Vol. X et XI, Bruxelles, p. 538